The following is a diary entry I wrote in March 2017 after leaving my job in London and trying out a new life in Spain.
We had been accustomed to most of our days over the previous few weeks in Jimena de la Frontera being somewhat similar in their content and structure. Apart from a weekend visit from friends, the days began with Rudy getting up at about 9am and having a coffee and cigarette outside, and myself spending a few hours to read the morning news in bed and rolling out of bed significantly later at about 10:30. This would be followed by spells of aimless pacing around the house and garden, thinking of ideas, occasionally writing them down, (often forgetting them), walks down the Hozgarganta river, walks to and from the shop, painting with watercolours, more cigarettes, lying in the sun with the increasingly needy cats, reading, cooking, listening to Desert Island Discs and watching Breaking Bad. Ideas for pitches came to me sparingly, money went and didn’t seem to want to come back. The environment didn’t inspire for ideas, but it did inspire me to relax. Rudy wrote in his books down in the smaller house at the bottom of the garden and sang songs on his guitar. It was altogether a pretty blissful time with no one to answer to but ourselves.
The day we left the casita in Jimena de la Frontera and the cats that we had mentally adopted is a day worth documenting. Rudy had picked up a car rental the day before and we were to drive from Jimena to our new destination somewhere within the Sierra Nevada mountains. Rudy’s brother had put us in touch with his friend who lived in the mountains, and would let us stay for two weeks (which ended up being one month) for free in return for caring for her two dogs.
Rudy is a nervous but thankfully cautious driver, and occasionally a highly stressed hothead when stalling at traffic lights or in the middle of roundabouts. Of course, that’s understandable, but I couldn’t help but seeing the humour in his use of profanity in a voice notably posher than my own that only increased under stress; sometimes directed towards me and sometimes directed to nothing at all. I would have no choice but to purse my lips at his frantic two-handed tugs on the handbreak, while questioned the car through gritted teeth “what the fuck it thinks it’s was playing at”. Having passed his test only a week before we left for Spain, he had virtually no real-world driving experience, let alone experience driving in a foreign country. I had no concept of how the 250 mile drive from Jimena to the Sierra Nevada mountains, and then back to Granada in time to return the car that evening would pan out, but we both hoped for the best. If anything I admired his bravery and willingness, and silently ignored my internal concerns for our welfare. Despite a slow start, a scattering of stalls here and there, and a lot of Spaniards overtaking on difficult stretches, the drive fared up once we reached the motorway. You can remain at the same speed, in the same gear, even in the same lane if you insist on it. The motorway stretch took us along the coast of the Costa del Sol, a journey that reminded me of a happy childhood holiday but was now somewhere we wanted to avoid like the plague. The last thing we needed to see were hoards of English holidaymakers in their polo shirts that stretched over protruding beer bellies, their sandal and sock combos, and blacked-out X-men-esque sunglasses that never seem to fit the shape of their wonky heads.